This weekend the American Psychological Association is meeting in San Francisco. While certainly not exclusively so, the meeting tends to be dedicated to the presentation of fairly trivial and limited scope, poorly designed research studies.
Psychology should be embarrassed that the focus of the meeting is not developing new and better ways of addressing psychological problems. For instance, I have dementia. So do many millions of people worldwide. At this psychological meeting, there is little focus on actually improving the lives of persons with dementia. The same is true for many other psychological disorders.
How has psychology failed persons with dementia? The following mind map presents my assessment of the situation.
Why does psychology fail persons with dementia? I believe it is because the field wants to pretend it is a science of the rigor of biology and physics, rather than focusing on becoming an evidence-based way of developing better ways of patient assessment, screening, treatment, and communication. What a waste. And remember that I am a person with degenerative cognitive and behavioral disease and I get it. Shame on psychology.
The #1 thing that I have learned over almost a decade of living with dementia is that thinking in pictures (images, diagrams, doodles, etc.) is much more effective than using words alone. Hedge your bet. Use pictures that associate with words rather than just words. After all, in many types of dementia, you lose your words at the end while the pictures may escape loss.
Try it. You will probably like it. Creating visualizations of important events, ideas, feelings, and other information can be FUN.
I’ve been using visual thinking methods for the past 10 years. They work (for me).
I get in trouble when I make mind maps about Donald Trump. This is a mind map about processing repetitive TV cable news (on CNN and MSNBC and FOX) about the most televised story — Donald Tackles the USA and the World — at this point in late April 2017.
Mr Trump is just completing the first 100 days of his Presidency having accomplished less — according to the fact checkers from numerous news organizations — than any President since the index has been tracked from the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidency in the 1930s. Mr Trump believes he has accomplished more than any president ever studied in his first 100 days.
I am a lover of news stories where the President gets bashed on TV. In the 1970s I watched (and read about) all the hearings focusing on Richard Nixon and Watergate. In the 1980s I watched huge amounts of TV about Reagan and Iran-Contragate. In the 1990s, I watched the hearings about Bill Clinton and the blue dress and impeachment and not inhaling. Nothing of a comparable nature occurred during either Bush presidency or that of Barack Obama. I almost didn’t know what to do with my spare time.
Now, I am watching numerous hours of TV/video on the major USA news channels (including CNN, MSNBC, Fox, CBS News online, New York Times, Washington Post, and of course the best news outlet for all news worldwide, BBC). And even ESPN has had a big Trump story about star players declining invitations to the White House to meet POTUS.
My dementia has been progressing at an ever increasing speed in a downward spiral during the past months. I remember (recall) less from current events and “work” and daily tasks. When I can retrieve information I do so very S—L—O—W—L—Y. Judgments are tougher, understanding sequences are harder, and writing down what I think is very slow as the length of my current journal entries (and al of the wurds nat spelled wrongly or too bigly) is increasing grately. Handwriting does not come with A spel chkr.
The current trend in cable TV news on MSNBC and CNN and others is to have one-hour shows where a moderator/commentator discusses all of the “important” news of the day with 2-5 different “self-styled” experts ranting from all political persuasions.
7 hours of liberal rantings about Trump is available on MSNBC and to a lesser degree on CNN; Fox News has 7 hours of conservative rantings about how terrible it is that the liberals are ranting about Trump.
I have repeatedly argued that inexpensive (or even free) visual thinking/mind modeling methods can help a person with dementia “rewrite the operating system” on that storage device we call the brain and think better, albeit in a different way.
As I was making the following mind model (AKA mind map) about Trump’s first 100 days yesterday, I was struck by how rapidly I could create this fairly complex model. I think it shows that the intrinsic interests and REPEATED exposures to structured, summary information can be well captured using visual thinking methods by a person who has lived with dementia for more than half a decade after diagnosis. While I understand that 40% of USA voters will find the content WRONG because it is very liberal rather than very conservative, I do propose the hypothesis that developing a fairly complex, fact-based mind map of current news shows the value of mind mapping for someone with dementia basing this conclusion only on my own experience. And it works no matter what you think about Trump.
I hope that as many conservatives as liberals will use these methods to study the facts of issues and their own conclusions and evaluate the completeness of what they know.
Examine your memories and conclusions in mind models. Political leanings and party do not matter because your mind model is for YOU as much as my mind model is for ME.
Should you find my political points to be in error, just use this as a template about what you would like to say about, for example, Hillary Clinton or a Democrat in Congress.
But remember that models like the one can be developed by a person living with dementia like me.
And most importantly, I hope that we — whether your political views are similar or dissimilar to mine — can come to an agreement that cognitive methods for supporting thinking for those with or at risk for dementia belong in the next version of ObamaCare or TrumpCare along with training, support, and respite services for unpaid dementia caregivers and especially COVERAGE OF COMPREHENSIVE HEALTHCARE FOR ALL AMERICANS.
Click on the image to expand it.
Oh … and let’s make sure that no President of any party ever uses the nuclear option. I hope we can all agree on that.
I was old enough to vote in my first presidential election in 1972 when I was 21 years old. I voted Democratic then and since then I have always voted for the Democratic candidate often as a perceived lesser of two evils. I voted for Hillary Clinton last year not because she was a good candidate or a good person (in my judgment) but she was better than Mr Trump who was the most extreme political presidential candidate since George Wallace and the most “out of it” candidate since Ross Perot. Before I could vote, I lived through the presidencies of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon’s first term.
I have a neurodegenerative condition that makes me almost uncontrollably anxious at times, obsessive-compulsive at others, and not particular good at decision making. But more than ever, I think that Trump’s Fake Populism is a horrible way to run the USA and the World and I am pretty sure that in spite of cognitive decline my perceptions of Trump are accurate.
Trump’s behavior makes me very anxious and deeply concerned about the USA I will be leaving behind soon. A lot of Americans (according to recent polls, the majority) share my concerns that Trump is an extremely bad President.
I would personally feel much better if the USA required its presidential candidates to take non-partisan medical, neuropsychological, and psychological evaluations before assuming office and annually. My belief is that a group of actively practicing medical doctors enlisted in the Uniformed Services of the United States could make an overall assessment of an individual’s fitness to be “the most powerful person on earth” and commander in chief of the world’s largest army and largest biggest nuclear arsenal, as well as the architect and steward of the world’s largest budget. I note that medical doctors and other healthcare professionals in the US Uniformed Services have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. It is reasonable to expect that the medical practitioners of the United States Uniformed Services can use due diligence and state-of-the-art medical skills to ensure that an individual honored with the duties of the President of the United States is physically and mentally fit to deal with the stresses of the job. I also note that 14 members of the 115th US Congress (2017-2019) are physicians (and 2 are Democrats while 12 are Republicans) and that I have confidence that their medical ethics and competence in medicine would permit a nonpartisan panel to oversee such an assessment (even though I vote as a very liberal Democrat). Perhaps Mr Trump has a medical condition affecting his ability to perform the duties of his office or perhaps he is just a bigoted, narcissistic, incompetent jerk who is quite successful at manipulating the voters of the USA, even without the assistance of Mr Putin and his hackers.
Is my cognitive decline causing my perceptions to slip in their accuracy or are my observations accurate descriptions of living for several months in #TrumpWorld?
Click on the image to expand.
Note. None of the 14 physicians in the current Congress has formal training in neurology. Since a neurological assessment is an important part of a medical exam for a 70-year old person, independent neurologists of either political party should also be part of a supervisory and assessment panel.
The mind model (aka mind map) below discusses my vision in developing the dementia focus on this website. I started to build the web site about two years after being diagnosed with a neurodegenerative condition (2012). Thus the entire blog is the work of a developer experiencing dementia while designing and preparing the content for the site. The site discusses my progression through cognitive impairment and decline into dementia. More importantly it discusses how I tried to help myself coordinate and use to full advantage the support and professional expertise made available to me by family, friends, the community, my doctors, and the general world-wide of patients and professionals the major issues.
Nothing in this blog post (or any other on blog post or page on the site) is intended to be, or promoted as medical, psychological, or any other form of treatment. The ideas in this blog are about using some commonsense note-taking and visual thinking methods to possible help you live better with dementia. I tried it on myself (only) and I am encouraged although I freely admit that full scientific study is needed.
These methods and comments will not substitute for medical and other professional treatments. They do not cure dementia. They do not slow down the progress of dementia. For me, at least, the methods have sustained and increased my quality of life and I do spend more time with my family and am more independent and in my opinion think better. But my dementia is not being treated and getting better; what I propose are methods that may make it easier to independently manage selected parts of your life, be in a better mood because you are trying to help yourself, be less of a burden to your caregivers, and report better to doctor what your experiences have been since the last appointment.
Many people are miserable almost all days when they have dementia. If simple, inexpensive cognitive tools can improve some or many of those days, the development of such techniques is a huge step forward.
I hope that others will examine the information here and use it to improve the decisions they, their caregivers, and their doctors and nurses must make about their formal medical treatment.
Here is what appears in the blog posts and elsewhere on Hubaisms.com.
Click on the image to expand it.
Click here to see Part 2 of My Vision in a separate window.
Since the beginning of this blog in 2012, I have consistently — with each new version — concluded (from dozens of comparisons with other programs) that iMindMap is the single best program for developing mind maps. Period.
With version 8.0, iMindMap is no longer the world’s best mind mapping program. Rather, it is the world’s best mind mapping program PLUS additional features that make it the world’s best visual thinking environment (or VITHEN using my coined term). Period.
What makes iMindMap 8.0 so valuable as an overall mind mapping and visual thinking tool is that it encourages you to use iterative, hierarchical, nonlinear, big-picture, creative ways of generating ideas, communicating those ideas, and integrating the ideas with the data of images and statistics. There is no tool I know of that is better for these overall tasks and the building of creative models.
I use iMindMap between 3 and 10 hours per day on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone 6 Plus.
Version 8 exceeds Version 7 in that the program has been significantly speeded up both for computer processing and in general usability of all of its advanced formatting features. The increased speed with which advanced formatting can be done encourages more precise and creative visual thinking.
Did I mention it has a very good (becoming excellent) 3 dimensional display mode and provides a much better presentation tool than the PowerPoint standard? The new Brainstorming Mode (file cards on a corkboard metaphor) allows those who like to see words rather than images to brainstorm in the mode most natural to them. I’ll never use the mode but I project many will embrace it.
The iMindMap program has been the best tool I have had to allow me deal with a neurocognitive neurodegenerative disorder and continue to be productive over the past five years. The program permits me to think at a very high level which I cannot do nearly as well with other techniques or other mind mapping programs.
All seven maps shown here are identical except for their format.
[I intentionally did not use any clipart because I did not want distract from the basic creative thinking and model development-presentation functions of iMindMap that are the real core of the program. With any of the variations of this map, if you spend 10 minutes adding selected included clipart or icons, the map will be even more visual.]
The remainder of my review is — appropriately — presented as a mind map.
Click images to expand.
Three styles provided with the iMindMap program.
4 Custom Styles I Use in My Own Work and 4 Variations on the Same 3D Mind Map
Yesterday I worked on my post about John Tukey and his contributions to statistics, data analysis, and my cell phone addiction.
As I did research to supplement my personal knowledge about Dr Turkey— near the end of his life, a good friend did work with him and one of my grad school professors (Bob Abelson) was one of his most influential students — I noticed the brevity of the bio in Wikipedia about him (less than a half a window on my computer) and contrasted this to the large number of screens of information available on the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Rodrigo Borgia, Al Capone, and Richard Nixon. Even R2D2 has a much longer biographical entry.
At many times the Internet is like ancient Rome (bread and circuses) or an episode of (un)reality television.
I dread to think how the aliens in the next galaxy are going to react when the television waves hit their planets. The two likely responses I forecast will be to either classify humans as a lower life form or to be delighted they have all the episodes of the Kardashians. I am betting on the latter (or probably both).
I frequently tweet about neurological diseases, sending out links to US government and major foundation web sites. These tweets are among the most retweeted and favorited of those I distribute.
As you may have inferred as you look at the fact sheets distributed, there are commonalities among many of these diseases above and beyond the fact that these are all diseases of the nervous system.
Very few of these diseases have treatments. Most of these diseases are rare and often not detected by primary care physicians or even related specialists like psychiatrists. Medications are frequently used off-label for controlling symptoms like depression, anger, tremor, and many others but these treatments are rarely effective for a long time, if at all, for most patients. Because these are rare diseases and neurological research itself is quite expensive, a small portion of the US medical research budget is spent looking for cures or effective symptom control.
The following mind map shows some of the commonalities among the neurological diseases. Click on the image to expand it.
The next mind map is identical to that above. The formatting has been changed so that you (and I) can judge if an alternate format is more useful for certain audiences.
Sadly, today starts the first day of super-aggressive end-of-year (online) shopping sales in the USA. I salute the countries where the capitalists are “controlled” by the social norm that you don’t practice aggressive capitalism on a religious holiday (of any religion). The opposite is true in the USA.
I have very aggressive spam detection on my computer and iDevices. Nonetheless my inbox is flooded with X% off, an extra Y% off, Z% off the list price that the retailer does not charge on any of the 365.25 days of the year.
I defy anyone to find a retailer who “honestly” states the “percentage off” on their sale merchandise. Even on a day when the world’s largest religion (Christianity, about one-third of the population, and concentrated in the USA, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Europe, and China) is celebrating one of its holy days, folks of all backgrounds are out to swindle the adherents for the next two weeks.
Show some respect to both religion and mathematics.
And, I do not recognize “unbridled capitalism” as a religion although I recognize that some might believe their practice of it is a form of “Satanism.”
This post does not contain medical advice. None of the methods described are known to be therapeutic. What is described are possible note-taking or information-sharing models for patient-client-self management.
For the past few months, I have been focusing on the use of mind maps to assist people with dementia, cognitive impairment, or cognitive decline deal with various issues that arise as they work hard to maintain independence.
You can access those posts simply by using the search box at the bottom of each post with keywords like “dementia” or “cognitive.” Several dozen blog posts will pop up with most very recent.
But the reality is that as dementia or other cognitive problems progress, many patients will require increasing amounts of supervision and care. Mind maps may prove to be useful in assisting a caregiver to help in a more effective, and cost–effective, manner.
Just as those with cognitive decline may be able to remember, plan, express themselves, and document their lives in maps, caregivers may be able to use these techniques themselves to provide better care and client management. Mind maps may potentially help the caregiver recall the preferences of the client, as well as the client’s life history, important events, significant people, and life style
Caregivers may find that visual information recorded in mind maps provides a good way for the caregiver and the client to start discussions.
Caregivers may find that clients can express themselves better with pictures, drawings, doodles than in words.
Caregivers may find that their own notes from each day are more useful if captured in the format of mind maps.
Caregivers may find that mind maps may be used for brainstorming by themselves, with healthcare providers, with family members, and with the client ways to organize daily events, select food and clothing, remember medications, and organize social events.
Caregivers may find it useful to record their own feelings in mind maps as a way of dealing with the emotional and physical stress of caregiving.
The daily calendar — including doctor visits and other appointments and visitors — may be easier to prepare as a mind map and much more useful to the client.
There are dozens of other ways mind maps might be useful in caregiving. I am going to write many posts on this topic in the next months. For now, here are a few examples with many more to come.
Click on each of the images to expand it.
Preparing a Mind Map (with the help of the client or family members) of the Client’s Preferences.
Preparing a Mind Map (with the help of the client or family members) of the Client’s Religious Beliefs.
Preparing a Mind Map (with the help of the client or family members) of Things the Client Especially Enjoys.
Preparing Mind Maps from the Warning Brochure that Comes with Each Prescription Refill.
Preparing a Mind Map of Each Day for Your Use and That of the Client.
Technical notes. The sample mind maps here were all prepared in the computer program iMindMap, which I strongly prefer both for the way it facilitates mapping and the way it typically produces maps that can be very useful. There are alternate programs that can be used, although perhaps not with the same level of good results possible with iMindMap. Because the maps will be used by caregivers and clients, they will tend to be most effective if colorful, “bold,” graphically interesting, and with large typefaces all of which are easily done in iMindMap. Acceptable alternatives to iMindMap would be iThoughts, Inspiration on the iPad (but not on the PC or Mac), MindNode, and XMIND, although each of the alternatives will be more difficult to use to produce maps for clients with cognitive decline than is iMindMap. There are free mind map programs available or free demo versions. This is a case, however, where paid versions are far more cost-effective than the free versions or most free programs. There is a second type of mind mapping program more suitable for business purposes (the major one is MindJet MindManager and also MindDomo and MindMeister) than those caregiving applications discussed here.
These days I carry around a MacBook with a 15 inch retina screen and internal 768GB optical drive. Oh to think that I used to be sure I was in computing heaven a decade ago when I carried around a company state-of-the-art laptop (I always carried the top of the food chain machines as I owned the consulting firm and as the senior consultant was on the road a lot). The circa 2003 Lenovo probably had a 1600 by 1200 screen and probably about a 16GB internal drive.
So these days when I take the retina screen machine home with its enormous 768GB optical drive home, I immediately plug it into a Cinema Display and four external hard drives (2 3TB and a 4TB thunderbolt drives as well as a 2TB firewire 800 drive). 12 terabytes of external storage (the emails of a career and 100,000s of digital pics and many thousands of documents, gigabytes of statistical data and outputs, hundreds of older programs I no longer use, and of course a 100+ movies and 8000+ audio files). I often refer to the the external drives as my digital “brain” (although they do have the individual names of Groucho, Son of Groucho, Harpo, and Chico just like major brain structures have individual names). As I fire up the external drives, my “life” gets reattached to my digital “brain” and I can see many more things at once in multiple windows on the 27 inch screen than you can see on a 15 inch internal screen, even one with a retina (rating).
I note that after I plug in those mega-drives the room gets hotter and I sweat a little. And the noise level goes up many decibels. And I feel a little anxiety.
This week I forgot to plug in the 4 hard drives one evening and did not discover it until 5 hours later at midnight when I wanted to watch the most recent episode of Marvel Agents of Shield (*****, 2 thumbs and a big toe up) in iTunes which stores its files on an external drive. It had been silent in the room all evening (optical drives make no sound as compared to the diesel engines in external drives) and I wasn’t sweating and did not feel any anxiety at all. And since I and not used Aperture all evening to see the old photos of my successes and abject failures, I had not really missed the hard drives for anything that important.
Silence. Just data and information from the last year and the Internet. Silence (well almost since after a while I did stream music from the web a few hours into my sojurn). No big distractions. No multiple (distracting) windows open on the 15 inch monitor. A focus on today.
I think I heard, saw, thought, and felt better that evening without having to confront my whole life in 7 windows all the time.
Today I am posting about paying some attention to the methods you use to communicate and remember and make decisions and express approval and make other appropriate reactions to others. What will YOU do If your mind fails due to a degenerative condition, a disease, the luck of the genetic draw, or because you are so dumb you refused to wear a helmet while riding your bicycle or motorcycle, or even due to playing football and huge traumatic blows to the brain while wearing a clearly inadequate helmet over the course of decades.
You are told (but probably tune it out like I do) that you should plan for disasters ranging from total disability or an earthquake or a hurricane or the election of a Tea Party President to such things as the day your dog needs hospitalization.
Did anyone ever tell you that you should considering learning some alternate ways of thinking and organizing your memories and planning than the ones you have used for most of your life.
What’s more important to you, having a few bottles of water in your basement in case there is a hurricane or earthquake in the neighborhood or learning new ways of thinking or remembering or making decisions that you might want to use now or after your memory starts to fail.
Consider yourself being told to look into this before somebody hits you with a car while you are weaving through urban traffic on your bicycle without a helmet or you learn that you lost the genetic lottery and have early stage X or Y or Z or xx or yy or etc.
I am not suggesting that you abandon the way you have thought for the bulk of your life if that style ia effective for you. I am suggesting that in case you have brain trauma from an accident or sports involvement or disease or start cognitive decline due to a brain anomaly, you know some alternate ways to think and store–retrieve information and make decisions using simple techniques.
I have a very well developed set of skills that has allowed me to have a great career. If one of those parts of my brain that produces good results for me is damaged, I want to make sure that I can switch out the bad memory drive (symbolically) in my head for another one. Or I can replace the logic program that got corrupted by damage to certain parts of the brain with a different method of doing the same thing utilizing other parts of the brain.
So here’s the deal. Take a look at the mind map below and see if it helps you recognize that you should start to take stock of all that wonderful data and hardware for processing it that lies in your brain and figure out how you are going to change the logic board and memory drives if you are unlucky and you need to try to make repairs.
Started up Google and typed WEATHER. Up came the current five day forecast for my zip code. At the bottom of the forecast, in the usual font I can’t read was the credit to The Weather Channel, Weather Underground, and AccuWeather.
I assume there was no intention for the company to name themselves after an American terrorist organization (although some of those working at Fox News probably would say that the radical organization has infiltrated the American psyche with a corporate news service distorting our perceptions of whether it will rain today and thus disrupting our society).
In 1968 I was a freshman (now fortunately known as “first year” as we have cleaned our language up as the world has changed for the better) in college. Around October, Rolling Stone magazine had this weird advertisement in which the non-selling record (yup vinyl) of a new artist named Randy Newman was highlighted as a real bummer (not sure anymore if that term had entered American culture by the 60s) and the record label was giving copies for free (yup, not even any postage) and since I could not afford to purchase records at the age of 17, I sent in the coupon for the “loser’s” record. Came in a few days later, hated it first but played it to death and came to love it. The best song on the album was “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today). The song never became a hit, but Newman hung around and kept recording (perhaps it did not hurt that his dad and uncle were both famous composers of film scores for some of Hollywood’s biggest movies). Second chances are a great thing for everybody, although I am ambivalent about the Weathermen.
[Comment: The juxtaposition of the Weather Underground and Randy Newman does not imply any relationship between Randy Newman and either the weather forecasting company or the terrorist organization from the 1960s. To the best of my knowledge, Mr Newman does not discuss his political views (although I guess from his lyrics that is a very peace-oriented man) nor do I know where he gets information whether it is going to rain on his outdoor concerts. I do know that Mr Newman worked in humanitarian relief efforts after the New Orleans hurricane.]
Very useful for forms, templates, novelty, and kidz. Example done with #imindmap on an iPad. Click on image to enlarge.
Steps to hand label the parts of the mind map (in iMindMap)
make a branch without a label
click on the branch to open the drawing app
write/print the word and click done
when back to main mind map window, click drawing, make bigger, rotate as required
tweak the branch by curling it around the handwritten label
Sept 9 2013: Since this was posted, Hans Buskes has also demonstrated the technique of using handwriting in his incomparable way. And he graciously dedicated the map about iOS 7 to me! [Now if only Dr Buskes’ endorsement would let me get on the Apple web site to download iOS 7!]
There are roughly 1,000,000 fairly inexpensive or free apps on the iPhone/iPad/Mac online stores.
Ever try to find the best task manager or calendar enhancer or text editor or mind mapping or … app?
It’s great to have choice. It’s not so great to get buried in it.
IMHO, most of the “10 best” guides are not all that helpful. And, since all of those 1,000,000+ apps are being updated all of the time to emulate (“steal”) each other’s best points, a relative ranking within app category is fairly meaningless if the review is more than 6 weeks (days/hours/seconds) old.
When I was in grad school, the choices were about the same as those currently in PenUltimate (size of paper, paper color, pen or pencil or marker, color coding, erasable or not).
Ugh. This is much worse than going into a Big Box office supplies store and trying to pick the perfect writing implement that makes it easy to write, makes you learn more and appear smarter, and does not smudge all over your hands and onto your clothing. (It also helps to find a writing implement that does not “bleed” when you leave it your pocket and then wash your clothes!).
Does anyone know which text processor, task manager, calendar enhancer, etc., app survives best when it goes through the washing machine?
I like to tell random stories under the assumption that at the end the lessons can all be tied together (after all I am telling all of the stories).
Here is a summary in visual form which is mainly how I think these days ..
reformatted June 2014 in iMindMap 7.1
Annually I used to give a presentation to graduate students in clinical psychology (the “I hate data, I hate statistics” crowd) at a famous psychology professional school about how to research and write a doctoral dissertation. The number one question everyone had was (nnoooo, not how to do good research or how to pick an important topic) how long it takes to write a doctoral dissertation. All of the dissertation advisors in the room with their students would wince and make rude sounds. I would respond “I know the exact answer and it is 1200 hours (30 hours a week for 40 weeks).” And the students would all have relieved smiles. Then I would say, “but you cannot count the hours you spend kvetching, bitching, whining, going out for coffee with your friends, or on the phone talking about your dissertation blues.” (This was in the days before Twitter and Facebook or I would have included those too.) I think this applies to all writing and other creative work; the “kvetch factor” determines how successful you are. Control kvetching and it is pretty easy.
People in most work situations often waste a lot of time going out for coffee and kvetching. In the company I owned, I purchased an $1800 “grind and freshly brew every cup of coffee machine,” unlimited bags of gourmet coffee, expensive tea bags, a small refrigerator stocked with every kind of soda available, a designer water cooler, a microwave oven, unlimited popcorn to nuke, and fresh fruit on occasion when somebody complained that all theew was to eat was popcorn. All were available at no cost to the employees. The designer coffee machine paid for itself in a few weeks. Happier folks, more conversations among employees (good, they eventually lead to collaboration and creativity), more team building, more cross-fertilization of ideas and skills. Of course, you could still go out to Starbucks if you wanted to. Almost nobody did since we had all the Starbuck’s coffee you could drink in the office for free (the machine also made expresso, lattes, and all of the other trendy coffee drinks). Visiting clients liked the break room a lot too.
When employees, collaborators, clients, and others would call, email, or show up unannounced at my office door in a state of high agitation, anxiety, or general “lost in spaceness,” I found that reminding them that we were just social scientists and were not “building a nuclear weapon” almost immediately relieved tension and worry. Sadly, some folks are building and using weapons of mass destruction this week.
In the past 30 years, folks have always talked about innovation and creativity as coming from software and hardware. I always found that real advances come from people-ware (which initially surprised a hi-tech guy like me). Social media is good, telephone calls are better, face-to-face meetings of stakeholders are best. And lots of time needs to be provided for a nonlinear process to occur, re-occur, and grow. Instead of teaching students and new employees how to better avoid people with technology reducing interactions and directives by email never checked to make sure it WAS actually received, we should be teaching them how to work effectively with other creative people by actually sitting down together and hammering out differences and developing new strategies for cooperation. It’s so retro 1960s that it could be the next trend.
Most people work hard to develop products that are so new and fancy that they are “bleeding edge” or so advanced they scary ordinary people. In our company, I never sought to be at the bleeding edge. Rather, any time new bleeding edge methods were developed, I would immediately try to develop the “12 months after the bleeding edge” products that people could use now and understand because of my explicit assumption that there is not an awful lot of use for methods that nobody can use! There is a lot of use for methods that somebody with a reputable track record had simplified (but NOT dumbed-down) and explained. Being at the bleeding edge often means your fingers get cut; simplification and training make the use of the tool a way to discover and communicate.
Office toys are a great thing. Over the years in my company we had a huge blow up clown you could kick when everything was not going perfectly (expressing verbally what had gone wrong and encouraging those within ear shot to suggest solutions). Games (the weekly contest on how many blue m&ms were in the packages being taken from the company chocolate stash; yes we had free chocolate some days, too) helped build communication. There was a talking and rockin’ parrot toy in my office often turned on during meetings.
We weren’t developing thermonuclear devices by email; we were counting and enjoying blue m&ms.
I believe that college and grad students are not encouraged to take enough control over their own destiny. To help address that issue, I have periodically presented a mind map for a paradigm that would produce graduates who can and will take more responsibility for their own careers and probably have stronger analytic skills.
That map, in its fourth draft, is presented at the end of this post.
I never really thought about my own college and grad school experiences as “seizing responsibility” until recently but in fact they were. Here are some personal stories from the years 1968-1976. Such options are probably more available today than they were for me, but to be honest, it was NEVER especially hard for me to “get away” with this stuff. And should you think all of this was possible because because I was the person at your high school or college who got the highest SAT and GRE scores you are wrong; I always scored high middling or low high. None of the opportunities I had were offered to me because I had 800s on tests.
When I was a first year in high school, I read about a reaction of the US government to the fear of the “Sputnik” experience (the USSR beat the USA into space and would nuke us to death) in funding a pilot program at 10 colleges to admit students after their junior year of high school. I marched into my high school counselor’s office and announced that I was going to college after my junior year. Fortunately the guy I spoke to (before announcing this to my parents) said “OK” but we have to change your classes. To convince my parents that I could graduate from high school, he worked out a deal with the local high school administrators to grant me a high school degree, counting my first year of college as my fourth year of high school if I made it through that year. My parents reluctantly said try and I started my junior year classes in my sophomore year, taking both 2nd and 3rd year math simultaneously and jumping into 3rd year English. In my junior year I skipped chemistry and jumped into physics, 4th year math, and an experimental social science class. For no reason other than the fact that I was fascinated by the 1968 election, I asked my social science teacher if I could do a survey of student attitudes, and he helped me get access to all his classes and taught me how to hand calculate cross-tabs. An extremely dedicated Latin teacher had me in her Latin 3 class and then stayed after school to individually teach me Latin 4 so I could get credit for four years of language study. And I applied to the University of Massachusetts (15 miles from home), Yale (65 miles away), and Lafayette College (150 miles away), the closest three of the 10 experimental programs. UMass recruited me heavily, Lafayette said OK, and the Yale alumni rep who interviewed me decided I needed to apply the next year after graduating from high school and was rather discouraging about the likelihood that I would ever be admitted to Yale.
In the fall of 1968, I started college as as a math/physics major and took a required social science class (I chose intro psychology). I immediately became a psych major when I found out that the first year class was a self-paced one in which you read the text yourself, monthly lectures were optional, did a couple of rat learning experiments yourself, and took 20 module tests whenever you felt like it to establish competency. Wahoo. Never looked back from psych. I did not really know what it meant to commit yourself to a field that requires a PhD as the entry level degree as I had no idea what a PhD was.
In 1969, transferred into Fordham in the Bronx, NY, because my new wife was in the the US Navy stationed in Queens, NY (long and separate story there). In spring 1970, I did an outrageous thing. Faced with the mandatory Intro Stat course in college, I went to the professor after the second class and informed him that the textbook was so easy that I could take his final exam any time and use his class time to do something else rthat would teach me something new. He told me OK, but only if I would agree to accept the final score as my grade and if I flunked to retake the entire course at a later time (no safety net). So we set an exam date of about a week later, and I got an A in the class and an invitation to be a research assistant in a PhD dissertation on single ganglion learning in cockroaches (lots of stories here I will omit) under his direction. Unbeknownst to me he started telling other faculty about my outrageous behavior (in a very supportive way) and hooked me up with another professor (Bill Lawlor who was also a Jesuit priest) who had arranged a tiny program of “a psychology year abroad” in the New York State Psychiatric Institute (one of the premier psychiatric research instituions in the world at the time) — 50% first semester of junior year, 100% second semester of junior year, 50% of first semester of junior year. Wahoo.
I worked with two of the pioneering psychiatrists in the use of lithium carbonate in bipolar disease and the genetics of the disease, and convinced them to let me and the unit psychologist submit an article to a peer-reviewed psychiatric journal. I ended up as the second author of an accepted article by the end of my junior year. And then convinced them to support me in the summers after my junior and senior college years with the promise I would do it again. By the end of my senior year, I was the first author on another peer-reviewed article and two MDs and two PhDs had made my career with their generosity in permitting me to be the first author on a paper. Wahoo again.
Yale liked the idea of a new grad student with two papers in press and so admitted me to their PhD program after my initial failure at geting to their undergrad program. Wahoo.
My first semester of grad school, I told the Director of Graduate Studies that I did not need to take the required first course in statistics that he taught. He had an emotional reaction and wrote me off as another arrogant hippie (yes, when I started grad school my hair came all the way down to my belt and there are some VERY interesting stories from that era I will NEVER tell). The second semester I aced Bob Abelson’s stat and experimental design course, and he became one my two most important teachers over the remaining year of grad school.
In the first semester of my second year of grad school (1973), I took a very unusual combination of three courses (Individual Differences in Cognition taught by a cognitive psychologist, Dynamics of Psychopathology taught by a psychoanalyst, and Imagery and Daydreaming taught by the breakthrough psychologist Jerry Singer who became my most important teacher). Hhmmm, how would the three courses go together. Could there be different types of cognitive styles that would partially determine how individuals experienced the world and developed pathological and highly successful strategies for dealing with day-to-day life. Empirical research by Garner, Jackson, Messick, and Witkin on cognitive styles, Shapiro’s theory of neurotic styles, and the first generation of computer models in psychology were of huge interest to me. So, I went to all three professors and asked if I could combine to their three required term papers into a single paper. Drs Day, Mahl, and Singer agreed and I came up with the idea of a computer model (actually implemented in Fortran) of cognitive styles in “normal” and “abnormal” personality functioning with the computer model used to validate the theory by determining whether it could reproduce the empirical research of Garner, Jackson, Messick, and Witkin. Each professor gave me an Honors grade and incredible feedback. I modeled the book length manuscript on the pioneering conceptions of Day on communicating (teaching) others how to use psychology who also served as the day-to-day advisor on the project.
All gutsy moves. Each was individually possible only because innovative faculty members were flexible, open to innovation, and supportive. Risky? Extremely. Worth it? Yes for me. I thank each and everyone who helped me in such major ways.
Was I smarter than everyone else? Not at all. Was I willing to take more risks? Yes. Could it have been done without supportive teachers willing to accept creative models of learning, training, and self development. Absolutely not. Was I willing to fail? Yes, but I was arrogant enough to think that was unlikely. Should you do it? I have absolutely no idea.
What worked for me? The answer is proposing innovative ways of learning APPLICABLE TO ME to highly supportive and qualified teachers and taking responsibility for making the models work.
Here is what I would do 35 years later. My model also incorporates many important ideas from Buzan on brainstorming and integrating information that I have learned in the last three years and many recent technologies.
I have wasted much of my professional life (writing time) since 1985 messing around with fonts and formatting indents and outlines and bullets and placement and TABLES and bibliographies while trying to actually create original content. It was always a lot easier to fool around with the next great font or the indent levels on bullets than it was to focus on the content. WordPerfect (I am that old) and Microsoft Word and more recently Apple Pages were not the great steps forward in productivity they claimed to be. [Before 1985 who ever cared what font text was in or how the bullets lined up? In fact, who ever knew what a bullet was before 1985?] I have come to think in recent years that “office automations” may be one of the lowest circles of hell for content creators.
Like many, I have gotten interested in writing environments and other tools that just let you write and don’t tempt you with a font change or better spacing while you are trying to actually finish writing a creative page. If I could only have all of that time spent changing fonts and styles I wasted over 27 years back, I probably could have written two more books.
So far as I can see, I am not the only one who is seeking to get rid of the distractions from Word and Pages and their ilk; there is a booming market on the Mac for writing environments, enhanced text editors, and simple word processors. I downloaded a copy of Ulysses III today after thinking about it for months and agonizing over the choice between Ulysses and Scrivener. [I did something I rarely do and actually made quite a bit of use of the demo versions of each program.] Within the next few days I expect that I will be brave enough to remove Pages and maybe even Word from my Mac. [Yes, of course I am keeping the backups, I am not that brave!] My initial experience is quite encouraging; as many have found writing in Markup (the enhanced text language of most of the current crop of writing environments) the change is for the better.
At the same time that I have concluded that formatting is not an integral part of the creative process of writing original text, I concluded that formatting IS an integral part of the creative process in mind mapping where it can help develop innovative models and methods of visual expression. I have determined this by using both the most elaborate and creative mind map program (iMindMap) that gives you great creative control over visual thinking and other programs that prepare visuals that look like my pencil drawings on file cards. Color and organic looks and clip art and spatial reorganization are integral parts of the visual creative process and become part of the creation.
A Duh Moment: Stop wasting a lot of time on formatting text materials while you are creating them. Invest your “formatting time” into creating compelling visual models using mind maps or alternatives.
Irv Oii is known to many international news organizations and researchers as a star data journalist. Being a home worker (although home may be the UK, Ohio, the Middle East, Central Africa, Hong Kong, or Antartica) and a fairly reclusive person, nobody seems to have met Irv. Some speculate that he might be a Jewish Asian-American. Others believe Irv is short for Irvelina, a Russian immigrant physician who went to Ohio (or was it Ojai, California) when the Soviet science programs collapsed and turned into the lower funded Russian collaborative efforts with the EU and USA. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in the closing of her laboratory in Minsk. Some even think Irv Oii is an acronym.
Irv is thus an enigma and no pictures of her/him seem to exist. An artist’s conception (mine) based on the writings and consultations of Irv Oii on healthcare breakthroughs is shown below. My belief is that a portrait of Irv should hang over the desk of every data journalist and researcher.
A key part of the television science fiction series Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek are the machine “races” Cylons (“toasters” or robots in BSG who develop “human” bodies to house the electronics) and Borg (androids who assimilate new species and technology into their race in Star Trek series starting with New Generation).
People who want to be part machines (like the guy at the next table in the restaurant who can’t put the iPhone down from his ear long enough to acknowledge that his kids exist) are pretty common these days. Does the iPhone want to be partly human? By iPhone 9 it undoubtedly will be.
I write this as I get ready to hook up a blood pressure cuff and fitbit to my iPhone 5.
Veal in machine oil sauce. A cuisine whose time is coming.
There are a number of things that can be done to cut the cost of healthcare while, at the same time, freeing doctors and others to do their jobs better. These improvements cost almost nothing to implement [if all of the constituencies and politicians do not compete to be King Kong].
Visiting legislator who stumbled across this web page? Here’s your chance to act like a grown-up and represent the people of the world, not drug companies nor major research universities nor individual “researcher” egos and retirement funds.
I always look forward to the release of many Apple app updates on Saturday morning with anticipation and fear. At times these updates (really bug-fixes of not-acknowledged problems that should have been initially discovered through enough testing before release) provide useful new methods. At times they introduce a whole new set of bugs to frustrate you, hone your work-around skills, and make you look forward to the next updates.
I guess developers who sell millions of copies of small apps that replicate all of the functionality of another developer’s apps do not feel the responsibility to release a bug-free product after a lot of beta testing. Perhaps this lack of regard for the customer is because a programmer who ignored doing sufficient beta testing therefore releasing buggy and bloated software that probably wasted a year of my professional life went on to become the richest person in the world and pretend that all he ever wanted to do was to solve those six world problems that are simple enough for him to understand.
The well publicized “generosity” of the Gates Foundation is really not that; Gates is simply repaying with no interest a few cents on each dollar taken from the world as excessive profits by a monopoly and the waste of the world’s resources in the loss of billions of hours. Bill Gates should be severely criticized, not lionized for his charitable work; it is a tiny distraction from a life of greed and shirking responsibility for the products you sell. I certainly hope the little guys who “only” make a few million dollars from simple apps will not look to Gates as a role model.